FOG Design+Art 2015

As promised, the second annual FOG Design+Art fair is FUN.  I attended the opening gala last night and was thoroughly entertained by both the furniture and fine art as well as the artfully dressed crowd.

True confession: this was my first art fair (though I’d read this helpful primer beforehand) so I can’t really weigh in on how this stacks up to Art Basel or Art Basel Miami, but seasoned art fair attendees confirmed that this event is both more entertaining and manageable than many of the larger, more established global art fairs.

Held at the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason, the show opens with event planner Stanlee Gatti’s exhibit 21Pop. “Cotton” is the theme for this year’s exploration of  21st century handmade craft and Gatti created a series of cardboard brick shopfronts to showcase cotton growers, dyers, weavers and fiber artists.  He topped off the display with a cotton candy maker producing little clouds of sugary goodness to let you know there were art “treats” ahead.

The rest of the fair included one-of-a-kind furniture and unique artwork from a mix of established and up-and-coming art galleries.  FOG Design+Art runs through Sunday the 18th. All show proceeds benefit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Here’s a bit of what I saw last night–

Cotton grower Sally Fox with her organic cotton.

Weaver Adele Stafford at her loom.

Indigo dyer Kristine Vejar and partner Adrienne Rodriguez demonstrate hand-dying techniques.

Cotton candy maker working hard throughout the night to start the fair off on a sweet note.

Works by well known artists like Damien Hirst and Richard Serra were featured in some of the more established galleries.

Having recently read Mary Coin, I loved seeing this print made from the original negative of Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother.”

This painting by Los Angeles artist Jeffrey Vallance incorporates supermarket names including Albertsons.  This would be fun to own since my father-in-law was a VP there.

Other interesting contemporary work included this faceted aluminum shelf by British industrial designer Michael Young at Hedge.

And these hand-turned side tables designed by Bay Area architect Mark Szumowski and designer Michelle Wempe shown at the Hosfelt Gallery booth are made from unusual woods, including piers found under the San Francisco Transbay Terminal during its current renovation.

Most of the objects and art for sale at FOG reflect the stratospheric prices paid by fine art collectors. But there are some entry-level offerings as well, like this watery-hued rendition of an electric mixer available at the Cultured booth just kitty corner from the cotton candy.  All part of the FUN to be had at the FOG fair!

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Winter Tablescape

Every December I’m itching to throw a dinner party–and never do.  I want to entertain because my house is spiffed up and holiday gatherings have reminded me how much I want to keep in touch with old friends. But by the time I get around to organizing something my calendar and everyone else’s is pretty much full.

However, January’s calendar is relatively empty and this month has just as many long nights that welcome company as December—even if we’re moving into the light rather than away from it.  So when the folks at the vintage furniture shop Chairish asked me to suggest a possible winter tablescape using one of their vintage table accessories, I thought this might be a good time to plan a simple meal with friends.

Looking through the Chairish offerings, I settled on these leaded crystal and silverplated serving tools.

They’d pair nicely with my fine china–something I’m hoping to use more since it works so well with our new modern home.  We picked out the simple black and platinum rimmed bone china thirty-five years ago just before we picked up our diplomas, said “I Do” and headed to the Bay Area to seek our fortunes.  The china came along in our rented U-Haul and has been with us every since.

The pattern is Mikasa’s Solitude and features a white china base rimmed in black and platinum.  When we chose it, it just seemed timeless and fancy.  Now I recognize the Art Deco influences and even a hint of Scandinavian design in the square tea cups with their flared bases.

Ten years later we added some postmodernist bowls designed by the late architect Charles Gwathmey for Swid Powell, a company that produced housewares designed by prominent architects of the 1980s.  These Anniversary bowls incorporate geometric patterns favored by Frank Lloyd Wright and Josef Hoffmann.

Curious to see if the Swid Powell pieces were still available online, I found a heavy platter in a related pattern–Tuxedo, also by Gwathmey–and placed it under the tree this Christmas to surprise M.J.

The graphics are a little bolder and there’s no platinum involved so this should help pair the formal china with a more casual menu.  I’m thinking something like a hearty slow-cooker pot roast recipe served over polenta with a winter vegetable slaw on the side and chocolate cake for dessert.

The Chairish serving pieces would add a touch of frosty glitter to the table.  I’d likely use some vintage crystal candle holders I found nearby at Loot Antiques to add another crystal element.  Because everything is in the same color palette – white/grey/black—and there are repeated geometric elements I think the mix will work.

Now, what tablecloth would provide the best foundation for this rustic but sophisticated meal?  My three options include a solid black tablecloth with a subtle chevron pattern that I bought at Macy’s long ago or a grey and cream paisley brocade picked up at Williams-Sonoma more recently.  The third option would be a lighter white and grey cloth with a yellow stripe around the border that I found in a Parisian department store in 2000 when we did a home exchange in London and tagged on a few days in Paris at the end.  I don’t remember the name of the store, but I do recall bumping into the actress Kirstie Allie there.  She was wearing a green taffeta skirt and looked fabulous, even in her post-Cheers/pre-Jenny Craig years.

Looking forward to longer days and evoking snowy climes elsewhere, I think I’ll go with the lighter French cloth.  I’ll keep the flowers simple—maybe just some simple narcissus as a nod to spring. Now it’s time to ring up a few friends and make this happen!

 

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Friday Things: Wordplay

Like many this time of year, I’ve been indulging in some personal wordplay.  I’ve forgone New Year’s resolutions and instead chosen a single word to focus my intentions for the year.   Last year, knowing that a move was in store, I chose Brave as my guiding word.

Finding, buying and remodeling a new house took courage and guts.  So did hiking to Machu Picchu when a landslide stalled other means of transportation.  Traveling on my own and recovering from being hit by a car were other times in 2014 when I was glad I’d decided to be Brave.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about what I’d like this year’s word to be and kept coming back to a desire to Simplify and Focus.  When I thought about how I wanted my life to feel or how I wanted to react to challenges the word Ease came to mind.

Not to be confused with Easy–that would be tedious, wouldn’t it?—Ease implies foresight, awareness and grace.  It means relinquishing expectations and accepting outcomes. It involves planning and preparation. In other words, it takes work and discipline. But if I can move with greater ease through my days? So worth it.

If you’re interested in exploring a possible word for your year check out Susannah Conway’s Find Your Word exercises or if you’ve already chosen a word, you can meet members of your word “tribe” at One Word 365  (If you want to join my tribe—I am currently the only member “at Ease.”)

In the meantime, here are some New Year’s things that are helping me ease into the year:

Karen Armstrong talks about religion and violence.

A favorite fitness instructor shares some thoughts on right-for-you workout routines.

Forest Bathing.

A dreamy, dramatic coffee table.

Warm, minimalist desk accessories. 

Lampshades lift off.

Smart words by Ira Glass, nicely illustrated.

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.

And if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, check out my BANG article about the upcoming FOG Design+Art fair.  Hope to see you there!

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Tidying Up

Over the holidays I discovered that I am was a sock torturer.  M.J. broke the news to me in bed by reading aloud from a book I’d given him for Christmas called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing  by  “tidying consultant” Marie Kondo.

“This lady says to ‘never, ever ball up your socks,’” he said,  glancing at me sideways as I dozed off over a copy of Wild.  “They should be resting right now and yours are doing anything but.”

The book has already sold 2 million copies in Japan and Europe so perhaps you’ve picked up your own copy and have already been admonished by Ms. Kondo to stop folding your socks into misshapen “potato-like lumps.”

If so, you’ve read how your socks “take a brutal beating in their daily work, trapped between your foot and your shoe, enduring pressure and friction to protect your precious feet.”

You probably already knew that the time they spend in your drawer is “their only chance to rest,” and that if you ball them up, they are in a constant state of tension when they should be “on holiday.”

Chastened, I decided to follow Kondo’s advice and take all my socks out of my sock drawer, discard the ones that no longer “sparked joy” and then carefully fold the rest before standing them on end in the drawer.

If you dare, look closely at my sock drawer full of misshapen sock balls in the Before photo above. Then take a gander at the neatly folded socks in this After shot.

After discarding nine joyless pairs (while thanking them for their years of dedicated service), I was left with 35 pairs of colored socks and 9 pairs of white sport socks.  As Kondo predicted, my newly folded socks take up half the space and are all easily visible.  Everyone/thing involved is breathing easier.

Kondo promises that once sorted and organized, your clothing will stay tidy with minimal effort.  Is her approach to clutter life-changing? We’ll see.  But for now at least, finding a pair of socks in the morning is pretty magical.

Does January find you trying new organization techniques?  If so, what and how?

 

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My Favorite Things in 2014

This was a busier than usual holiday season with all the kids and spouses (and a new fiance!) home.  So I’m just now taking a few moments to ponder some favorite things from 2014.  Perhaps you too are finding this Friday more about retrospection than resolutions.  If so, you might also be thinking about some of your favorite things in 2014. With the help of Goodreads, Spotify and my Calendar 5 app here are my top three 2014 things in a range of design and entertainment categories.

Best International Design Things

This was a year of extraordinary travel for me. It’s hard to pick just three highlights, so I fudged a little here.

Macchu Pichu and other wonders of the Andes  - Peru

Swiss Open-Air Museum – Ballenberg, Switzerland

Porsche Museum + Weissenhof Estate – Stuttgart, Germany

Best Domestic Design Things

Matisse: The Cut-Outs (particularly the “Swimming Pool” dining room installation) – MoMA, NYC

Surf Craft – MinGei Museum, San Diego, CA

San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2014

Best Books

Goodreads tells me that I read or listened to 26 books last year.  Looking over the list I could tell you a few things l liked–and some things I didn’t–about every one of them.  But here are the three books published in 2014 that will stay me.

Frog Music - Emma Donoghue

Levels of Life – Julian Barnes

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

Best  Cookbooks

Looking back, I primarily cooked from old favorite cookbooks and blogs. However, three new welcome additions include:

Barefoot Contessa: Make It Ahead - Ina Garten

My Paris Kitchen - David Leibovitz

Plenty - Yotam Ottolenghi

Best Movies

Travel and our mid-year move cut down some of our first run movie watching this year, but three films I expect to recall include:

Beyond the Lights

Boyhood

Noah

Best TV

So little time to watch TV, really, though this is the year I figured out what all the buzz about Scandal and The Americans was about. Otherwise, I sat still long enough to watch these new shows/seasons:

Blackish

Hell on Wheels: Season 4

Jane the Virgin

Best Theater

We saw a number of terrific plays last year including a hilarious/creepy/touching community theater production of Side-Show starring one of M.J.’s work colleagues. Here’s the best of the rest.

The House That Will Not Stand – Berkeley Rep

Tribes – Berkeley Rep

Pygmalion – Cal Shakes

Best Music

According to Spotify’s Year in Music feature, a third of what I listened to last year was folk-pop and I mostly listened to it on Tuesday.  Go figure.  Right now I’m writing this post to a new playlist of unknowns that Spotify has produced for me based on my 2014 history.  Lots of folksy pop tunes—pleasant, not-too-demanding stuff to evoke a mood while I think about other things.  Here are three artists and songs that stood out from the lyrical hushed emotions that were apparently the soundtrack of my 2014:

Mary Lambert – Jessie’s Girl

Noah Gundersen – Poor Man’s Son

James Vincent Morrow – Cavalier

Best Live Music (including Musical Theater)

Though I heard lots of good performances in my church community we didn’t attend too many other concerts or musicals (with the exception of the VERY BAD Idina Menzel vehicle “If/Then” on Broadway) this year.  These three were terrific, nevertheless:

Glen Hansard – Fox Theater, Oakland

Into the Woods – San Francisco Playhouse

The California Revels “An American Journey” – Scottish Rites Theater, Oakland

 

Looking forward to discovering some new favorite things with you in 2015.

 

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So Long 2014!

It’s a cold, blustery New Year’s Eve here in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The forecast says we’ll hover around freezing, but I suspect it’s a little colder than that up here in the Oakland Hills. When M.J. was washing the car this morning for our big kids to take to Palm Desert a thin film of ice formed on the hood as soon as he sprayed it with water.  We’re still nowhere near the -20 degrees my mom reports back in Idaho, but still.

Warm inside, I’m counting my blessings. This was a very good year for me. Hope it was for you, too, and if not, well, here’s to all good things in 2015!

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Travel Gift Ideas

Every year for Christmas my eight siblings and their spouses draw names for gift giving around a particular theme.  Some years the themes have been practical – “emergency supplies” or “favorite cooking tools,” for example. Other years we’ve shopped for entertainment items like an Oscar-winning movie from the year the recipient graduated from high school–which is how “Young Frankenstein” came into my video library.

The past few years we’ve all been traveling to family weddings as the next generation grows up and starts their own little Loosli-related families.  So this year we decided that the theme would be “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” and the gifts would be travel related. Thinking about things that make travel easier and enjoyable for me, I came up with a list of possible gift ideas for our designated recipients—my baby brother Aaron and my oldest brother Brian’s wife Karen. I’m sharing it here, in case you also have someone on your list who likes or needs to travel.

1. A Personalized Packing List. Years ago I created a few packing list spreadsheets based on how I travel.  Basically they fall into a few simple categories—hot or cool weather and weekend or weeklong travel. (Even if I’ll be on the road for multiple weeks, I’ve found a week’s worth of clothes will likely suffice with some strategic laundry maneuvers.) These lists keep me from reinventing the wheel every time I travel and get me out the door with all the essentials. Possible gift: Packing advice book wrapped in your own packing list template and/or a packing app.

2. Travel Bags. I have suitcases in 3 sizes–a true carry-on, a possible carry-on if I squish everything in really tightly and pray the zipper holds, and a larger suitcase that I know I’ll check.

My “personal item” carry on is usually a lightweight Le Sport Sac tote.  Into that tote I’ll throw one or two smaller bags with travel essentials.  The first one is a smaller multi-zipper Le Sport Sac cosmetic bag that carries an old iPod—to save my phone battery—some lipstick, lotion and hand sanitizer.  The second comes along on longer trips and includes a sleep mask, earplugs and a flashlight.  The small bags are always packed, ready to go. I’m thinking this might be a good gift for Karen who is always so organized. Possible Gift: A small colorful bag packed with in-flight essentials.

3. Paper Goods. I keep travel documents, itineraries and pertinent sections of guidebooks (I still prefer a paper copy) in transparent plastic envelopes, one per city/country, to make getting around easier if I’m a little jet-lagged or just disoriented. These folders also store paper ephemera—entrance tickets, brochures, etc.—to review when I’m back home. I also make sure I have a Moleskine notebook on hand to to capture some impressions or contact info. Possible Gift:  Clear plastic envelopes and a Moleskine notebook.


4. Travel Books. I love guidebooks and always pack relevant sections in my travel folders (see above.) But my favorite way to prep for a trip or enhance my time there is to read a novel set where I’ll be traveling.  Some of my best leads for new-to-me books have been found in the literature section of the Rough Guide travel guides. Possible gift: A specific guidebook or novel if I know where the person is traveling or an Amazon gift card with a note designating its purpose.

5. Destination Gift Certificates. As regular readers know, I tend to track down needlework shops wherever I go.  Though I travel to discover new things and places, sometimes it’s nice to drop in to a familiar setting and see how it’s different elsewhere—for example, the cheery yarn shop I visited in remote Oxapampa, Peru last January.

These gifts take a little more research.  For example, my brother Aaron owns a Cold Stone Creamery franchise.  We just spent time together in San Diego at a nephew’s wedding and I noted that he enjoyed checking out the competition at a local ice cream shop near our vacation rental. So I’m thinking a gift certificate to a top-ranked creamery in Las Vegas—our next family wedding destination–might be just the ticket.  Possible Gift: a gift certificate to a restaurant or specialty shop in a city you know your recipient will travel in the next year.

6. Cold Hard (and usually very welcome) Cash.  Years ago when our young family did a home exchange in London, my in-laws gave us a generous cash gift and told us it was to be used for any entrance fees to museums or sights so we wouldn’t forgo opportunities because we were pinching our pennies. Even though we’d saved a tremendous amount by doing a home swap, we were still stretching to afford air fare.  Their gift allowed us to happily explore London without worrying so much about the cost. Possible Gift: A fancy/humorous card and some greenbacks.

Bon Voyage!

 

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Friday Things: The Early December Edition

I love the early days of December when everything seems possible, don’t you?

The Christmas carols that irritated me in stores two weeks ago seem festive now.   Spending time in the kitchen making artful cookies is creative fun. Dressing up to go out with friends feels like a treat. And I’m confidant that somehow all that shopping and present wrapping will happen eventually – falalalala!

As the season progresses and things inevitably don’t go as planned, I’ll try to remember that the best Decembers are usually the ones where I’ve spent more time observing and less time orchestrating.  Planning is important but I’m merrier when I focus on priorities not perfection.

Lighting up my house is pretty much at the top of my seasonal decorating list. So I’m looking forward to picking out a tree for our new place this weekend—tall and skinny should do the trick—and experimenting with outdoor light hooks specifically designed for flat roofs (rare in this land of peaked-roof Victorians.)

In the next few weeks we’ll be setting up a “glamping” tent to help house all our kids when they come home for Christmas.  I’ll share that temporary guest room with you as it evolves, but in the meantime here are some other things that lit up my early December:

A year later, some thoughts on Frozen – an animated musical that left me cold but took the world by storm.

A year end best book list from Maris Kreizman, the wit behind Slaughterhouse 90210.

What I’m giving my girlfriends this year–lavender shortbread wreaths, a “fancy” cookie that’s easy to make, beautiful and tasty.

Some journaling exercises for reflecting back through the year from photographer and blogger Susannah Conway.

And now, just for fun (and my brother Joel) – a new Christmas classic by the Killers and Jimmy Kimmel : “Joel, the Lump of Coal.”

Happy Weekend All!

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Thanksgiving Things

Happy Thanksgiving Eve, everyone!  I hope you’re happily prepping for the holiday whether that means confirming your reservations at a favorite restaurant or harvesting persimmons to make Aunt Nell’s favorite pudding. Around here we’re baking pies.  Well, truthfully, we’re watching my mom bake pies.  Because that’s the kind of helpful children and grandchildren we are.

Actually, I was photographing and watching, trying to figure out how she so effortlessly assembles the crust and then rolls it out with nary a tear (tare) or a tear (teer.)

I always bring the pies to Thanksgiving dinner at my friend Pauline’s and I estimate it took making about a hundred pies before I actually achieved anything close to my mother’s perfect and painless pie crusts.

She makes it look so easy.  Glad you could share this Thanksgiving with us, Mom–and not just for the pies. I’m also looking forward to your creamed onions.

While your pie crusts are chilling, here are a few Thanksgiving things to consider:

Aspirational Thanksgiving recipes by state.

What we actually cook for Thanksgiving by state. (Frog-eye salad, Idaho?)

Strategies for Thanksgiving dinner table conversation.

Anne Lamott on saying grace.

A grateful shout out to Mother Earth.

Nice to learn that we grow more grateful as we age.

Happy Thanksgiving All!

 

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Thoroughly Modern Amish Quilts

Amish quilts had a heyday in the ’80s and ’90s.  Their bold colors and graphic patterns worked well with contemporary interiors and evoked the rural Amish lifestyle that was portrayed so appealingly in Peter Weir’s thriller “Witness” and  Sue Bender’s bestseller “Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish.”  In an age of increased technological complexity, simplicity sold.

Though Amish quilts are used less frequently in today’s home decor, any time they’re exhibited they tend to draw a crowd.  If you live in the Bay Area you’ll find some excellent examples at Antique Ohio Amish Quilts from the Darwin D. Bearley Collection, a new exhibit opening this weekend at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles.  A companion exhibit of  twenty modern quilts from three Bay Area modern quilt guilds (including the quilts shown here) shows the continuing appeal of hand-sewn simplicity.

You can read more about the exhibits here in my BANG article, but I wanted to share two other things that San Francisco-based quilt expert Joe Cunningham had to say when I interviewed him for the story. First, he pointed out that the modern quilter’s aesthetic is not only inspired by the past but also developed in reaction to it.  “Young quilters don’t want to shop at their moms’ favorite fabric shops or join their mothers’ quilt guilds,” said Cunningham. “And they really don’t want to make their mothers’ quilts.”

I can imagine their mothers’ quilts—elaborate constructions made possible through improved cutting tools and exposure to a wide range of techniques demonstrated in quilting publications, workshops, and fabric stores. Some of those women made spare Amish-like quilts, but most tackled complex patterns with an incredible variety of fabrics. Then they appliqued and embellished the layers of fabric and batting to within a 1/4 inch of their mitered borders. More was more.

So it’s no surprise that in order to create something that they can call their own, a new generation of quiltmakers has embraced a more spare, Amish-like, style of quiltmaking.

The young quilters I interviewed told me that they’re busier than their mothers—working full time while raising kids–and not able to devote as much time to their craft. I hear what they’re saying, but I also think that women have always been busy.  Certainly 19th century quilters had plenty to do but still managed to produce intricately pieced quilts covered with exquisite hand-quilted stitches. So I’d propose that we all seem to move more quickly through our obsessions nowdays. None of us are spending hours, weeks and months working on a single craft or art project any more.  Simpler quilts mean quicker turn around times which is in keeping with the pace of our modern lives.

The other point Cunningham made is that women have always made quilts not because it’s the most efficient way to cover a bed, but because it’s one of the loveliest.  “You could make warm bed coverings by simply tying whole layers of fabric together without going to the trouble of piecing fabric scraps into artistic patterns and then covering them with hand stitching,” says Cunningham.  “Historically quilts were works of art that allowed women to get together and make gifts for the people they loved. That hasn’t changed.”

Modern quilters may purchase materials, learn techniques and share their art online, but my guess is that they’re still motivated to quilt because they want to make something beautiful–and warm–for real live people.

 “Antique Ohio Amish Quilts: The Darwin D. Bearley Collection” and “Amish: The Modern Muse” open Saturday, November 15 at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. 

 

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Kathryn Pritchett

writes about Things Elemental — where we find shelter, why we connect, what sustains us and how we strut our stuff.

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    • Incredible cloud display today. Can hardly wait for sunset.